Saturday, 12 May 2012


Another weekend sees another day out with a few hundred other riders all joined in the collective competitive spirit of MTB racing! This time it was the Rockhopper Race in Vacaville. The race was to take place at Lagoon Valley Park. Open, grassy and full of rewarding, flowey singletrack and punishing fireroad climbing. Me and Chris signed up for cat 2, which meant two 9 or so mile loops with about 1600ft of climbing. A decent ascent, but still less than 20 miles of dirt overall. Even in my less than race shape I figured I could have a decent crack at it.

As we queued for our bibs it was announced the start time of the XC race was to be until delayed until 11:30, meaning we'd be riding during the hottest part of an already sweltering day. Once we got geared up, strava'd up and sunscreened up we set off in waves across the start/finish line and headed out into the heat. The race started with some twisty climbing and a little descending, followed by a steep, dusty descent before opening up to some more flowey singletrack. A great way to thin out the throng. I opted to switch on the Nomad's propredal to help with the climbs on a not very technical course. Lap 1 and the steed didn't feel right. Skittish and unsure I was convinced it was the different cush setting rather than my own nerves, so I went back to normal and all felt well again. I'm really starting to notice how subtle changes like this can really affect the bike's handling. A good thing as it means I'm becoming more connected to my riding.

The course was a lot of fun. A few steep sections and some chunky rocks here and there threw in some interest on what was otherwise a fast, smooth and flowey track. The climbs were tough though. Mainly fireroad, we were left exposed to the brutal heat of a Californian summer's sun. At the end of lap 1 Chris - sensibly - bailed. We'd already tended to one poor girl who had collapsed with heat exhaustion. I was determined to crack on though. I need to whip my arse into shape and it's days like this that will help that along. So as I crossed the start/finish, I pushed on into the searing heat and tinder dry dirt for a second punishing lap.

My second lap was actually better than the first. I really settled into the riding, acclimatised to the heat and found a low gear that I could more or less comfortably grind on the climbs. I left nothing out on the trails though. By the end my quads were squirming with cramp and I felt wrung out. Perfect! As I crossed the line for a second time I felt great. Pleased with my riding at least, if not with my finish time (around 2:30 hours - hardly race pace but a decent ride pace.) Also, I felt the benefits of the BetterRide course yet again. On the switchbacks I used good techniques to clean the uphills and smoothly rail the downhills. And on the steep, loose and dusty descents I had full control under braking whilst others skidded uncontrollably with arms locked out and worried looking faces. Money well spent yet again! And money in the bank in terms of getting back to bike fitness. Tomorrow, I'm out on my new bike for some urban shizzle..... I'll post pictures soon so you can see her. She's a beauty!

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